Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"You Just Make it Work"


Several times over the course of my childfree life, when listening to parents vent about how exhausted they are, how broke they are, how they are fighting with their spouse all the time and how their kids drive them crazy, I have been interested to see that I almost always get a the same response from them when I make this comment:

Me: "Man, I just don't know how you do it. The work, the expense, the lack of sleep, devoting your whole life to another person and giving up so much of your own life."

Parent: "I used to think the same thing. But somehow you just make it work."

So what is the parent really trying to convey? This is what I think they want me to believe:

"I used to be naive like you and think that having kids was so difficult, but the fact is, they are so rewarding that you will do anything in order to have them. All the stress and burden doesn't bother me a lick. It's so worth it!"

But if you scratch the surface, this is what I believe is really underneath:

"Yes, it's a hell-hole of a life for sure, but kids aren't returnable. I made my bed so I have to lie in it and I am dealing with that trauma the best I can. So I better convince myself (and everyone else) that I am making it work and that I can get through it and that it's all worth it. And while I am at it, misery loves company so I will try to convince you to undertake this lifestyle too!"

The fact is, whenever a parent says, "you just make it work" I sincerely have to scratch my head. Of course you just make it work! What choice do you have? I guess you could commit suicide, but otherwise you're stuck with it, right? If I had a child, I would make it work too. I'd have to. We'd probably have to sell the house and move someplace more affordable (to allow for all the extra expense of a child), I'd quit school (since pursuing a graduate degree is probably unrealistic for the mother of a small child). I'd cancel our upcoming vacation (since it doesn't seem practical to lug an infant to Tulum, Mexico and make it sleep in a tent on the beach). I'd probably stop exercising in the mornings (since mornings would be taken up with baby care, plus I'd probably have to turn the workout room into a nursery). The list goes on and on.

The point is, just because you can make a particular lifestyle work doesn't mean that lifestyle is one you should choose. It also doesn't mean that lifestyle is the optimal one for you and everyone else, and the one that will be the most fulfilling and enjoyable above all other lifestyles.

I didn't choose to parent. I also didn't choose to be a doctor, work for the Peace Corps, run for office, live in a city, own an SUV, write a book, or have a parrot as a pet, although I am sure these are considered excellent choices by many people.

What I did choose is to live a life that values freedom - freedom to create, to express, to explore, to love, to discover, to learn, to converse, to try new things, to think, to endeavor, to grow, to socialize, to rest, to aspire, to indulge, to dream, to introspect, to expand.

I have no doubt that I'd sacrifice most, if not all, of these freedoms to have kids and "make it work".

5 comments:

Shell said...

Just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it. It's so good to see other people putting CF observations into words that I could never be eloquent enough in expressing myself. It's like the lightbulb above my head comes on.

The whole "you just make it work" thing does make me feel sad for parents. You're right. What other option is there once you've had kids? Apart from what you mentioned and maybe adoption?

What annoys me most is when the tone of the "making it work" conversation starts to have an air of 'Martyrdom' about it. "Look at me, look how much I've sacrificed to 'make it work' and raise this child! Look how selfless I am!"
Urrgh.

Childfreeeee said...

I know. The selfless thing makes me crazy too. There is nothing selfless about bring a new life into the world when there are so many homeless orphans that need homes, just so the person can have little "mini-me". There is nothing selfless about taking care of something that you have CREATED. It's like me asking for praise for paying my mortgage bill.

Student said...

The misery-loves-company thing is spot on. I think it works this way: if a parent can convince someone to have children of their own, they won't have to watch them live a childfree life, and thus be forced to see what life could have been like.

For instance, I want to be a writer, but I have ADHD. That means concentrating on my work is already hard enough as it is, without a screaming infant to distract me. And that is just one of the many reasons I won't be breeding.

verycharming said...

The misery-loves-company thing is spot on. I think it works this way: if a parent can convince someone to have children of their own, they won't have to watch them live a childfree life, and thus be forced to see what life could have been like.

For instance, I want to be a writer, but I have ADHD. That means concentrating on my work is already hard enough as it is, without a screaming infant to distract me. And that is just one of the many reasons I won't be breeding.

verycharming said...

sorry for the doublepost, something went haywire.